Racism in focusing War & Conflict: An Invisible Barrier towards achieving Global Peace

Sadiq M Alam
Published on April 6, 2022

According to data by "The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) Project", more than 20 major wars and armed conflicts are going on around the world in the first quarter of 2022 with significant loss of lives. If we go by the number of human lives lost in these ongoing wars, the top names will be the following countries/areas: Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Somalia, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Mexico, DR Congo, Mali etc.

If we rank lives lost in 2021 by countries, the list will be the following, the numbers in the bracket are people killed in 2021 in those countries in war and conflict:

Afghanistan (42,223 reported lost their lives)
Yemen (31,048)
Ethiopia (22,800)
Myanmar (11,114)
Nigeria (9,687)
Mexico (8,273)

Crisis Map
Currently on going wars around the world - interactive map by Crisis Group

Even though 80% of all war and conflict currently going on are concentrated in Asia and African, if you switch on mainstream media, any media that is, which war news do you hear and watch? It's only the Ukraine Russian conflict at the moment, correct? And before Ukraine Russia conflict the other wars were almost non existent in the radar of world media. As if nothing was going on. How come we turn such a blind eye to lives lost in another part of the world in many other wars?

Infographic credit

A disconcerting racist tone was detected earlier in the reporting of the Ukraine Russia Crisis. In the early days of the invasion, racially-biased comments and video clips circulated widely of western journalists espousing that the world should care about what was happening in Ukraine because the people who were dying were white.

To cite a few examples: 'Ukraine's Deputy Chief Prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, in his BBC interview, said, "It's very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed." Reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Massachusetts-born CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent Charlie D'Agata declared that Ukraine "isn't a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European—I have to choose those words carefully, too—city, where you wouldn't expect that or hope it will happen."

There's the clip of ITV correspondent Lucy Watson broadcasting from a train station in neighbouring Poland, where she was having a hard time wrapping her head around the shock of an invasion taking place in a predominately white country and the horror of seeing the non-poor struggle and suffer. "Now the unthinkable has happened to them. And this is not a developing, Third World nation. This is Europe!"

A statement by the US- Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) correctly notes that the media coverage "dehumanizes and renders [the experience] with war as somehow normal and expected" in certain parts of the world. It "condemns and categorically rejects orientalist and racist implications that any population or country is 'uncivilized' or bears economic factors that make it worthy of conflict…This type of commentary reflects the pervasive mentality in western journalism of normalizing tragedy in parts of the world such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America."

War and peace now affect everyone globally since we live in a more connected and global world. If we are serious about peace, global peace, we should also look at the racist lens through which we observe, watch, witness, and interpret war and conflict.

Racism is one of the significant vices that clouds our minds from seeing others as equal; it dehumanizes human lives and forces us to become blind. If we do not value each human's life, whether they are from South America or Africa or the Middle East or Asia or anywhere in the world - the achievement of peace will be impossible. In one of her pieces, Lorraine Ali, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, ended by saying: "Unfortunately, in Europe's newest conflict, at least one age-old problem persists: The limits of empathy in wartime are still too often measured by race."

If we are serious about understanding the sources of conflict and those who contribute to global conflicts, we cannot help but ask the question, who are the top arms exporters in the world that directly impact worldwide war and conflicts?

Behind the profit from war agenda, there is also subtle racism that persists. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2020, the United States, Russia, France, Germany & Spain are the top five Arms exporting countries. Now since global media coverage is also controlled by these countries, we tend to get an interpretation of conflicts through their agenda based lens.

It's one thing to shed crocodile tears for a selective population and claim oneself to support peace, but the sad reality is that the same group of people fund weapons of mass destruction to various conflict areas and perpetuate wars and suffering.

African wars are funded mainly by Western countries (to be precise, European countries except for China) with only one agenda: to take control of the resources of poor African nations. With insignificant ongoing wars and conflicts, the few richest countries in northern Europe manufacture and sell arms. If anyone needs to be held accountable, these countries are top arms suppliers who also play a significant role in fueling the wars through their foreign policy and unjust demand for regime change when it doesn't sit with their colonial agenda.

Achieving peace demands looking at things in a just and balanced way. If we continue to measure the value of human lives in one part of the world more than others regarding who deserves how much air time, that is a barrier to achieving global peace. As conscious citizens of the world, we must recognize this invisible and very subtle racist agenda if we want to give a chance to sustainable peace for the world.

To really achieve peace we must implement a number of practical measure to stop and perpetuate wars around the world:

  1. All lethal arms exporting countries must cut their military budget significantly. They should also reduce stock pile of weapons of mass destruction including biological and chemical weapons.
  2. Conflicts should be resolved diplomatically and powerful nations must not take side of the warring factions and supply weapons. Profit from war should be prohibited to the maximum.
  3. There should be transparency and accountability regarding weapon supply in active war regions so that the real agents of war can be identified and brought to accountability and justice.


Global Conflict Tracker

International Crisis Group: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2022

List of ongoing armed conflicts: Wikipedia

Racism in Western reporting of the Ukraine war. How should we respond?

Op-Ed: Racist War Reporting by White Journalists Undermines Trust in Western Media

In Ukraine reporting, Western press reveals grim bias toward ‘people like us’: LA Times

Sadiq M Alam

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